What’s your favorite Olympic discipline? There are many to choose from, and they’re all acceptable answers. Are you a track racing sort of person? Do you follow the 100m or 200m sprint with bated breath? Maybe you’re the kind who prefers feats of strength like shot putting or javelin throwing. Perhaps you’re even the kind of unconventional sort who favors one-on-one events like fencing or martial arts.
We’re particularly partial to gymnastics ourselves. There’s something about the grace and dignity of a perfectly-executed pivot, somersault or backflip that has us whooping with delight and respect. Gymnasts train for an incredible amount of time to achieve the perfect physique and poise for their craft, and it’s a truly wonderful thing to watch a master gymnast in action.
Luckily, it seems that the folks over at Finnish company MotionVolt agree with us, or so it seems. The company’s latest effort, Backflipper, features the exact same kind of daring gymnastic feats we’ve come to love but lets us vicariously experience what it must be like to be an Olympic gymnast. If you want to play this one for yourself before reading (and we strongly recommend you do so), then you can start flipping on Poki right now.
It’s not strictly true that Backflipper lets you experience life as an Olympic gymnast. Imagine, rather, that you’re an Olympic gymnast in training. Now imagine that you’re absolutely nowhere near as skilled as those athletes and can barely land a backflip without your limbs betraying you and flailing in awkward directions, and you’re somewhere in the right ballpark with Backflipper.
Of course, that’s not meant to give the impression that Backflipper isn’t a raucously good time. Like many physics puzzlers, Backflipper trades on the relative ineptitude of its protagonist, and the failures here are almost as much fun as the successes. Pulling off a perfectly-executed backflip is a delight, but it’s just as compelling and enjoyable to watch your hapless character fling themselves foolishly off a rooftop.
Let’s back up (no pun intended) a little. Backflipper is a combination of physics platformer, puzzler and, of all things, golf simulator. Players control a single “flipper”, who must traverse a series of rooftops or other obstacles by means of backflip alone. The game’s controlled entirely with the mouse, which is where the golf sim elements come in: the character aims back and forth automatically, and players must click their mouse button when the backflip trajectory looks favorable.
It doesn’t end there, though. As any good gymnast knows, a backflip contains more than just the launch. There’s also the landing to consider, and Backflipper doesn’t skimp on this detail. Once a flip has begun, the protagonist will soar effortlessly through the air, and another mouse click will ready them for a landing. If the mouse is pressed too early or too late, then the character will fall helplessly to their doom. Backflipper thus becomes a game about aligning and executing the perfect backflip using only the mouse.
This control method works extremely well, despite being slightly unintuitive to grasp upon a first attempt. If you’re anything like us, you’ll start to get the basics after a few deaths, and before long you’ll be chaining flips like a pro. Like many of its browser-based peers, Backflipper has its roots in mobile gaming, and it shows through the game’s simple yet deep controls and chunky, cartoony presentation.
Despite being based around a simple concept which one would think would run out of steam fairly quickly, Backflipper does iterate on its core gameplay mechanics quite successfully. There’s a degree of finesse involved in the act of backflipping here, and the difficulty increments in a satisfying manner, with each jump being slightly more difficult and demanding than the last. There’s also a couple of optional elements for brave players to try; if you’re feeling daring, you can attempt the double- or even triple-flip, and there are optional coins to collect in each stage which reward perfect jumping.
Backflipper rounds off its collectible elements with a series of unlockable characters and stages, each of which can be attained by using in-game currency. Characters start out on the sensible side, with parkour runners and other ordinary folk, but it’s not long before you start unlocking secret service agents, astronauts and even extremely important political figures. Unlike many games, Backflipper does actually assign stats to its characters, so there’s more worth in unlocking extra flippers. The game shows its design genius again here by deliberately making certain characters overpowered, juxtaposing the easier and more controlled jumping ability of those characters with an increase in raw power that makes precision and finesse harder to pull off.
Finally, there are the levels, and it’s here that Backflipper really shines. The first level players unlock is simply a series of urban rooftops, but there’s a range of stages on offer including moving elevators, speeding cars and even a jet plane in flight. There’s a lot of imagination on display in the level design of Backflipper, which complements the game’s excellent central gameplay and range of interesting characters to play as.
In the final analysis, Backflipper is a great little physics platformer. It’s as long as you want it to be thanks to the endless gameplay style, and its many levels and characters should keep even the most skilled player busy flipping away for many, many hours. We heartily recommend this one – it’s a gem.